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How an Idea Partner Can Help Launch a Million-Dollar Startup For our series College Treps, Chris Norton discusses how an idea partner can help an entrepreneur separate million-dollar ideas from total duds.

By Chris Norton

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As an entrepreneur, your mind is constantly thinking about the next "big" idea. But what you might deem the next Facebook, could be a total flop.

To separate the million-dollar idea from the total duds, an entrepreneur should enlist the help of an idea partner, or someone to act as a sounding board and provide feedback.

When I originally came up with the idea for Sweet Donations, it began as a student run, nonprofit business conducting door-to-door candy sales to small businesses in industrial parks. I would ask employees of these companies if they were interested in purchasing a snack, with all profits going to help children and family in need.

While it was for a good cause, it became clear this door-to-door model was fairly archaic and frankly, pretty ineffective. Something had to change. I dedided to turn to my idea partner, my roommate for help. After a few discussions with him and a lot of groundwork, I pivoted my strategy. Instead of visiting each business every day, I developed snack stations, which only needed to be refilled on a weekly basis.

Need a reason to team up with an idea partner? I got three.

1. Get feedback from your target audience.
As a college entrepreneur at New York University, the majority of my ideas are tailored to solving the issues faced by college students in an urban environment. To see if my ideas have legs, I turn to my roommate, as he is my target audience. Finding out whether he would use the product or service plays a role in determining if my idea could become a legitimate business.

Not every aspiring entrepreneur will have the luxury of turning to their roommates to gain insight, as they may not fit the demographic mold. Yet, it is important to find someone that could benefit from your product or service and asking for his opinion. Make sure you are comfortable with this person, as you need to ensure you receive honest feedback.

Related: 4 Innovators, 4 Ways to Get Inspired

2. Provides insight into the competitive landscape.
Entrepreneurs are notorious for having tunnel vision, with many people believing they struck gold with their amazing idea.

While anyone can think of a great concept, the challenge is execution. To stand out, the product or service needs to be the best, cheapest or first to market. Yet, with entrepreneur blinders on, some people may be unaware of the current offerings in the market.

I once spent a few weeks toying with an idea I thought would reshape the service industry. After a five-minute talk with my roommate, I got the dreaded, "Have you heard of company X?" Apparently, my idea was already a hot startup with $40 million in funding.

By having an idea partner as your sounding board, you can get a better picture of the competitive landscape. The person can quickly help determine whether your concept is new, provides an innovative angle or a key differentiation, like price, to stand out from the crowd.

Related: 5 Places Your Great Ideas Are Hiding And How to Set Them Free

3. Helps refine your idea.
If you have been in the entrepreneur community, you probably have heard your initial idea will most likely not be your end product.

As mentioned above, Sweet Donations pivoted from an impractical strategy to a feasible business. This shift occurred after I had reached out to my roommate for advice.

Make sure you continually talk with your idea partner to fine tune your startup. Refinements can be as modest as a small feature or can completely reshape the initial idea.

It is important to remember the business decisions are ultimately up to you but a little bit of creative discussion can't hurt. Now that your idea partner has helped you develop a viable entrepreneurial endeavor, it is time to research and execute.

Chris Norton is currently a junior at New York University Stern School of Business. He's the founder of Sweet Donations, a nonprofit organization that raises money to improve the care of medically frail children through candy sales.

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